Exchanging creative juices with Manic Street Preachers.
"We've fallen back in love with ourselves as a band," says Nicky Wire. "It's us opening up."
The Manics' bassist sounds justifiably proud of his band's forthcoming seventh album, Lifeblood, but it could have been very different. After the release of 2002's Best Of, Forever Delayed, the trio suffered a crisis of confidence that threatened to permanently derail them. "We moaned so much about it being a full stop that we almost convinced ourselves," says frontman James Dean Bradfield. "This time, we didn't look back."
It took a three-week stint working with veteran David Bowie/T-Rex producer Tony Visconti at New York's Looking Glass Studios to whip them back into shape. They emerged with four tracks in the bag and a newfound sense of direction. "He's a very motivational character, in a Zen kind of way," says Bradfield of Visconti.
Since then, the band have split their time between studios in Ireland and Wales with producer Greg Haver and engineer Tom Elmhirst. "There's more emphasis on rhythm and more of an electronic sheen to everything," says Wire. "We've banned power chords."
The sound might be slicker, but Wire's lyrical bite remains intact - The Love Of Richard Nixon, for example, is a treatise on the corrupt former US president's policies. Elsewhere, missing guitarist Richey Edwards is addressed in Cardiff Afterlife. "It's a delayed reaction," says the bassist. "It just gushed out. It's tender but truthful, and I'm proud of that."